CHIPINGE — Dozens of angry villagers last week fought running battles with Zimbabwe Republic Police officers over disputed land between villagers and Green Fuel in Chisumbanje.
Report By OBEY MANAYITI STAFF REPORTER
The clashes started last Monday, but turned nasty over the weekend after armed police stormed the disputed land in Chinyamukwakwa area where close to 100 villagers were tilling the land in preparation for the farming season.
Police had to fire teargas to disperse angry villagers who were threatening to hit back after talks between the two parties allegedly failed to bear fruits.
The villagers claimed the land dispute started in 2009 when management at Green Fuel reneged on their promise to provide alternative land for the farmers displaced by the project.
They said negotiations broke down after the company offered them a paltry 0,4 hectares each.
A recent Cabinet taskforce headed by Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara ordered Green Fuel to finalise the land issue before mandatory blending is introduced. Villagers are accusing the ethanol producing company of encroaching into their land in Chinyamukwakwa.
Contacted for comment, Green Fuel management referred all questions to Chipinge district administrator Freeman Mavhiza who flatly refused to take questions from NewsDay.
In an interview with NewsDay on Saturday following the fracas with police, angry villagers vowed not to bow down until their grievances have been addressed.
They accused police and Green Fuel of employing intimidatory tactics to silence them.
“They can do whatever they want, including hiring police to threaten us, but the truth of the matter is that we are not going to stop fighting,” said Jerry Moyana, one of the affected farmers.
“Today (Saturday) they used force and they fired teargas at us but they are the ones who are encroaching into our land. Naturally we have to fight.
“We are not against this project. We are against the idea of being treated like we are second-class citizens. The Cabinet resolution is so clear to us.
Chinyamukwakwa belongs to us and I don’t even know why we have to go this far,” said Moyana. Platform for Youth Development Trust director Claris Madhuku, whose organisation is representing the villagers, deplored the use of force.
“This is unacceptable. We are saddened and worried with this lack of professionalism exhibited by Chisumbanje police officers. We are appealing to Augustine Chihuri (Police Commissioner-General)and the Cabinet to handle this delicate dispute with utmost care and professionalism” said Madhuku.